Ample, the Best Food Hack Since Sliced Bread

I feel like our world is obsessed with discovering the latest “hack” to make our lives as efficient as possible. I always receive emails about helpful hacks that will save me time, make me happier, make my workouts better, etc, etc. And of course eating hacks seem to be especially popular. How can we make our meals more convenient, more nutritious, more enjoyable so that we have more time leftover to do the things that we really love? The startup world is overrun with companies that are determined to hack your way to a better meal by delivering your food faster or doing the grocery shopping for you. Good food can be yours with just a click of an app.

Ample Bottles
bottles of ample ready to go. 400 calories, natural ingredients, 26% protein, 25% carbs, 49% healthy fat.

Ample is a new food startup that takes food hacking to the extreme. It disrupts our whole approach to eating by reducing the activity to only its core essential – delivering sustenance to the body. You don’t have to deal with the nuisance of thinking about what to eat, physically going out to get your food, waiting for a meal to get to you or doing any sort of prep whatsoever. All you do is grab an Ample meal shake bottle, fill it with some water or milk, shake vigorously to blend, and consume 400 clean calories fortified with the right mix of nutrients so that it can serve as a reliable meal replacement. And now you can get those 30 minutes back that would have been spent thinking about which salad to get at Chop’t and walking the few blocks over there.

I’m clearly not the right demographic for Ample, as I live to eat and can always make time for food. Even if I know that I will have back-to-back meetings, I will go get a salad at 10 am and bring it back to the office so that I am all prepared for the day ahead. I guess some people do not think ahead like that. These are probably the same people who are so busy that they forget to eat and think eating is getting in the way of getting things done. But I was curious to see what it tasted like and how I could potentially integrate Ample part-time into my life, so I took the plunge and decided to hack my lunch with an Ample shake.

Marni Ample 3
marni’s a fan of this life hack

It certainly was the easiest and quickest meal I ever made. I simply poured water up toward the top of the bottle and shook it pretty hard to make sure things were well-blended. I found that even though I was thorough in my shaking, things didn’t quite blend completely, and I was left with some powdery pancake-batter like lumps floating around. Flavor-wise, it wasn’t too bad. With almond milk, the Ample shake tasted somewhat like cookie batter, which isn’t a bad frame of reference. With water, however, I found that it tasted too much like some GNC muscle shake, although without that tinny, artificial aftertaste. I was nervous that I would be hungry, but what do you know, I actually was satiated from 12 to 4 pm, and no sugar crashes or anything in between. I honestly think that it would be worthwhile to have emergency bottles of Ample on standby for those days when things are crazy and finding time to step out for lunch is annoying. Because sometimes a Kind Bar doesn’t cut it. But an Ample shake definitely will.

So if this life hack is up your alley, you can pre-order some Ample shakes here on the company’s Indiegogo campaign page. Volume is key, because a $30 contribution can get you a 6-pack at $5 a bottle, whereas a $135 contribution can get you a 30-pack at $4.50 a bottle. The bottles are good for 6 months so stock up all you want! You can also choose between 400 or 600 calorie options. Clean, optimized eating at your fingertips, and affordable at that. Gone are the days of $15 salads at Sweetgreen or Chop’t. This might be the best food hack since sliced bread…

Dirt Candy’s Vegetable Brunch

Dirt Candy officially launched brunch service at their Lower East Side space. We dropped by during the soft open, and not surprisingly, it was doing brisk business. There was a nice, neighborhood feel to the place, despite the slick, new relocation, with small groups and families enjoying the brunch, including Bob Tuschman of the Food Network!

The menu, as expected, features traditional brunch fare with a seasonally-driven, vegetarian twist. You can choose from corn french toast, green huevos and no ham, zucchini pancakes, carrot granola, omelette with a spicy cilantro radish filling and a “canadian cracker” waffle with cheddar and roasted tomatoes. Even brunch libations get the vegetable treatment. You can order a “bloody carrie,” which has grilled carrot in it, or a yellow pepper mimosa, which utilizes real yellow pepper juice as a mixer.

Processed with VSCOcam with hb2 preset
corn french toast
Processed with VSCOcam with hb2 preset
green huevos and no ham

If you’re feeling more lunch than brunch, there are several hearty veggie sandwiches you can choose from–the greens sandwich, which consists of various stir-fried greens in two giant slabs of focaccia bread, a smoky beet sandwich that apparently resembles pastrami, a cabbage and avocado with kimchi option, and an intriguing spinach ramen salad.

Processed with VSCOcam with hb2 preset
the greens stir-fried broccoli sandwich

The way to go here is to share a brunch dish, a lunch sandwich, and the corn french toast as a dessert. This is one square meal that you won’t forget!

Dirt Candy
86 Allen St (between Broome and Grand St)
New York, NY 10002
(212) 228-7732

A Review of Liquiteria’s Explore and Nourish Cleanse

Do you ever feel that when winter hits, your body goes into hibernation mode, and you start eating everything in sight, even though in modern day times you no longer have to build up layers of fat to survive the bitter winters, just like our caveman ancestors once did?

If this isn’t a problem you struggle with, lucky you. Unfortunately, my vestigial winter survival instincts were kicking in high gear, and I was snacking like a mad woman. I felt like a cleanse was in order to reverse some of the damage, so when Liquiteria offered its Level 1 Explore and Nourish cleanse on Gilt City, I bought one asap.

meet the cast of explore and nourish
meet the cast of explore and nourish

The Level 1 cleanse is designed for beginners and consists of 6 juices. I feel like I’m more of an intermediate cleanser, but the Level 2 cleanse had two All Greens juices in it, whereas the Level 1 only had one, and that was honestly the deciding factor. Also, level 1 cleanses tend to showcase overly fruity and sweet juices to appeal to beginners, but this one was actually light on the fruit basket.

Here’s a rundown of the juices in the cleanse:

All Greens – this is probably one of the more challenging juices on the cleanse. I remember hating it when I was on Juice, Eat & Repeat. It basically tastes like sweet liquid grass and cucumber. Surprisingly I couldn’t really taste the parsley in here, but the cucumber was front and center.

All Greens with Apple – this tastes like apple juice with some celery and parsley, which is awesome, considering you had to drink liquid cucumber right before it. Even though it has apple in it, it isn’t overly sweet and is one of the better sweet green juices that are out there.

Skin Trip – this is the worst juice out of the bunch. It looks like toilet water and tastes like it too. To be fair, it actually tastes like carrot juice, but you eat with your eyes, not your stomach, and I couldn’t get over the sketchy dark brown color. Because it’s so awful, it usually takes me 45 minutes to drink it, whereas I can drink an All Greens with Apple in like 5. It also feels a bit more full bodied than the other juices, maybe it’s because of all the earthy root vegetables like carrot and beet in there.

Beets Me – pretty self explanatory, it’s a sweet beet juice with a lot of ginger. I have to warn you, sometimes the ginger is intense, and it hurts if you drink it too quickly because all these gingery fumes get caught in your sinuses.

Royal Flush – the last juice of the day is this pineapple apple juice with again, lots of ginger. Obviously this juice is very sweet and pleasant, but I was hoping for something more comforting and substantial, like the cashew nut milk on the BluePrint cleanse. Oh well, at least it’s not a Skin Trip or All Greens.

Day 1 – Started out with the All Greens juice at 8:30 am. I was dreading this juice, but it wasn’t as bad as I remembered. I was too distracted by work to realize how hungry I was, and at 12 I quickly finished off my bottle of the All Greens with Apple. I was really hungry throughout the day–I guess my stomach stretched in the winter or something–but I managed to hold out until 3:45 for the 3rd juice, the Skin Trip. Drinking the Skin Trip was by far the most traumatic part of the cleanse, it was horrible. At around the third juice my trips to the bathroom became much more frequent. And my productivity sort of shut down at 4 pm. In addition to the constant hunger, I had a light headache throughout the day, probably because I didn’t have my daily cup of caffeinated tea. After the horrible Skin Trip, the All Greens with Apple tasted especially heavenly and I finished it in 5 minutes. When I came home from work, I finished the Beets Me juice, which was extra gingery. I couldn’t drink it too quickly because of the kick from the ginger. 2 hours later I had the Royal Flush and went to sleep soon after.

Day 2 – Wow, I had the best sleep ever last night. I felt so well rested. This is the best part of cleansing, the quality of your sleep definitely improves. I was surprisingly less hungry today than yesterday. Maybe my winter stomach was shrinking back to its normal state. My slight caffeine withdrawal headache also went away. Normally on the second day of the cleanse my mind gets a little foggy and I get fatigued very easily. I did almost pass out in a group meeting but my mind stayed pretty sharp in the early part of the day. After 3 pm I was starting to struggle and became very uncoordinated, and at the market, I had such a hard time getting a bunch of kale into a plastic bag. I also noticed that this cleanse really gets the digestion moving, like really moving. That’s something I didn’t experience on other cleanses. The worst drink of the day was still The Skin Trip, although I’m beginning to feel it’s the reason why my digestion has improved…so I won’t write it off completely. It’s a little TMI, but it felt liberating knowing things were moving out of my gut.

Day 3 – again, another great night of sleep. There weren’t that many differences between Day 2 and 3, except I was starting to get bored, and all I kept thinking about was my solid meal the next day. I was less tired and could concentrate better today, although that was offset by me getting really cold and having blue fingernails at times. I loved getting good sleep and having great digestion, and the 4 pounds of weight loss are nice (but temporary), but nothing beats solid foods. They say you should ease into meats and dairy, but I’m probably going to ignore that suggestion…

NYC Vegetarian Food Festival 2015 Recap

This is my third year covering the NYC Vegetarian Food Festival, and I’m always impressed by the devoted crowds that line up before the official opening time of 11 am each year. Interest in a vegetarian lifestyle continues to grow, and although the percentage of vegetarians in the United States is a small 5% (Gallup), the group of Americans who frequently go meat-free is 33% (Harris Interactive).

nyc veg 2015 - signage

As the statistics show, people are curious about meat-free products, even if they don’t necessarily want to commit to a meat-free lifestyle. Food companies have responded to this rising demand by producing high quality and tasty products that can hold their own against the non-vegan competition. Each year the festival showcases the latest in vegan snack food innovation, and here’s a rundown of the brands that really stood out in the crowd.

Palm Frites – The name Palm Frites is a play on “pomme frites”, but these coconut fries have little in common with traditional french fries. Young Thai organic coconuts go through a dehydration process that transforms the fruit into crispy chips, no frying vat of oil required. The churro and bbq flavors were my favorites, although the flagship garlic fry was a little too intensely garlic for me. A gluten free source of protein, fiber, and healthy fats, packed with essential vitamins and minerals–what’s not to like?

palm frites' coconut fries
palm frites’ coconut fries

Bixby & Co. – Everyone loves chocolate, and luckily dark chocolate happens to be naturally vegan. Chocolate, after all, comes from cacao beans, and it only becomes un-vegan when you add dairy milk to it. The Whippersnapper chocolate bar had great texture and the dark chocolate wasn’t bitter at all. It’s a great way to indulge, cruelty-free.

bixby chocolate bars
bixby chocolate bars

i heart keenwah – The quinoa clusters from i heart keenwah were my favorite samples at the festival. They tasted like a cross between a rice krispy treat and those asian sesame seed candies, crunchy and sweet, but with a more complex, nutty flavor. I was also a fan of the quinoa puffs, which resembled the cheez balls of my youth, only packed with protein, denser in texture, and flavored with better seasonings like sea salt truffle and aged cheddar.

quinoa clusters
quinoa clusters
quinoa puffs
quinoa puffs

Karmalize – Karmalize sells 100% organic, GMO-free nuts, quinoa, chia, coconut sugar and beans. I wasn’t able to sample any due to the nature of the product being raw ingredients rather than a finished snack product, but I was intrigued enough by the founders’ energy and commitment to socially responsible practices, that I bought a bag of the white quinoa. Another distinguishing characteristic of Karmalize products is that they are sprouted, meaning the seeds in the grain, nut or bean are germinated, which naturally increases the mineral and vitamin content in the product, and improves digestion and absorption of those nutrients.

karmalize’s raw, organic nuts
karmalize’s organic white quinoa

NotMilk – NotMilk is a brand of fresh nut milk made just from water, nuts and dates, and currently these nut milks are only sold in NYC by delivery service. The company was started by two sisters who are lactose intolerant and needed an alternative to dairy milk, but weren’t satisfied with the mass-produced, chemically enhanced nut milks available in grocery stores. They decided to produce nut milk that they and others could drink in good conscience. I liked the Vanilla and Original NotMilk–they certainly beat the Whole Foods almond milk that I’ve been buying regularly.

notmilk's nut milks
notmilk’s nut milks

Love Beets – There’s this funny episode of Portlandia where a marketing exec tries to make celery as sexy as kale. He should take a few cues from Love Beets, a company that sells pre-marinaded beets in fun snack packs. Let’s be honest, beets are very earthy and not the most accessible of vegetables, but these bite-size, tasty servings and the whimsical packaging should change this perception.


what's not to love about beets
what’s not to love about beets
love beets' juices
love beets’ juices

Hope Foods – It’s hard to find innovation in the hummus and dips space. Yes, you can add some garlic and chili to some chickpeas, but it doesn’t get much more exciting than that. Hope Foods’ hummus, on the other hand, actually bring something new to the table, infusing their spreads with ingredients like vibrant, spicy avocado and sriracha. They also have a chocolate version that surprisingly works really well with the garbanzo beans.

hope foods' chocolate spreads
hope foods’ chocolate spreads

Cocoburg – Coconut is having a moment at the festival. Cocoburg is another vendor capitalizing on the potential of coconut, hand making raw vegan coconut jerky in small batches at its Brooklyn headquarters. The coconut jerky is intended to be a meat substitute that tastes great and doesn’t have a whole bunch of additives in it. I was convinced by the texture of the jerky samples–it did have that chewy, meaty sensation that you would get from chunky bits of beef jerky.

coconut jerky
coconut jerky

Fruit Bliss – Fruit Bliss sells naturally sun-sweetened, organic whole fruit snack packs that are handy when you simply don’t have time to cut and peel your own fruit (which is like everyday for me!). These fruits are great in that they still retain the plumpness and moisture of fresh fruit, but they aren’t overly sweet like the dried cranberries and apricots in your calorie dense trail mix.

fruit bliss dates and plums
fruit bliss dates and plums

Rukhi – I eat Kind bars nearly everyday for an afternoon snack, but sometimes I wish they weren’t so sweet, and I sometimes wonder why there’s soy lecithin and other unfamiliar things in there. I stumbled upon Rukhi’s gluten free and vegan fruit snacks at the festival, which featured all natural combinations of raw ingredients such as dates, figs, cranberries, apricots, almonds and walnuts. The snacks tasted wholesome, fresh and nutritious, an improvement upon the sugary, processed aftertaste in a lot of mass produced food bars. The fig varieties are especially impressive.

rukhi's fig and almond snack samples
rukhi snack squares
nyc veg 2015 - rukhi snack squares
rukhi snack squares samples


Time for a BluePrint Cleanse

After a particularly indulgent summer, as well as a weekend of eating Momofuku pork buns and downing a pint of Oktoberfest beer, I thought it was the perfect time to give my body a break and go on a juice cleanse. My last cleanse was Liquiteria’s Juice, Eat and Repeat, but this time I decided to go with BluePrint, my favorite cleanse program. I’m a big fan for the following reasons: it’s extremely easy to follow (the bottles are numbered by the order you should drink them), the green juice is very accessible (less liquid grass, more delicious apple-celery drink), and the cashew milk is a dream (sometimes I buy a bottle at Whole Foods for non-cleanse reasons, it’s that good). I had a Gilt City voucher on retainer for moments like this, and I purposely timed the delivery to happen right after the Oktoberfest festivities ended so that I was all set to go on Monday.

blueprint - excavation 2
the 6 juices for the blueprint excavation cleanse

People’s reactions to my going on a juice cleanse range are pretty interesting, because it’s always a very strong and negative reaction. Usually they will go off on how they would never do a juice cleanse, because juicing strips fruits and vegetables of their fiber, and it’s so full of sugar, and why are the juices so expensive (that is true, ~$11 a bottle), so what’s the point of doing it, eat solid healthy foods in moderation, dum dum. Rarely does anyone say how they love juice cleanses and do it all the time, with the exception of the 1 or 2 friends that introduced me to it. Everyone does seem to agree that supplementing your diet with 1-2 green juices is a great way to integrate more vegetables.

I personally do it because it is an effective way for me to jump start healthier eating habits. Seeing the water weight loss, however temporary, is a huge motivator, and since I worked so hard to cleanse my system, I’m a lot more conscious of what I eat in the subsequent weeks, and that helps to keep things in maintenance mode. I also think my stomach shrinks, and I end up eating less than usual, so even if I wanted to binge on a large pizza, I physically can’t. Plus, the juices taste good, so the three days of juicing, while tedious, is not unpleasant. I also avoid the cleanses that have too much fruit juices in the mix, since those are the ones with the most sugar–stick to the mostly green ones. If you want to jump on the BluePrint juice band wagon and are curious to know what 3 days of drinking stuff feels like, please proceed!

Day 1 – This was the first day of my Excavation Cleanse, which consists of 4 green juices, 1 spicy lemonade, and, the best for last, the cashew milk. Day 1 of a cleanse, for some reason, is always the easiest. I think it’s because the body is still running on solid food reserves from the day prior. I did have a slight headache by Juice #3, which I think was due to caffeine withdrawal and an early Monday morning start. I luckily didn’t have too many mental juice fog brain fart moments, and I was pretty alert during all of the work calls I was on. I do have to say that at around 5 pm, my productivity came to a halt, and I kept staring blankly at my spreadsheet of numbers.

I was also able to workout–I had a Physique 57 Mixed class at 8, and I was really worried that my workout would be pathetic, but I was able to do full-form push ups and all the modifications for the whole class. At 9:30, I was so grateful for that creamy, heavenly cashew milk, which went down quite easy and too quickly. I didn’t feel hungry today, although my stomach was feeling a little lonely at around 10:30 and kept making a lot of growling noises. But it held its ground and didn’t seek the company of solid foods. I fell asleep pretty instantaneously at 11:30 pm. The deep sleep is one of my favorite parts of a juice cleanse. Not sure if it’s because you’re calorie deprived, and it’s your body’s way of telling you that it can’t do this anymore, but the kind of sleep you get is awesome.

Day 2 – After emerging from my deep sleep, I felt super tired. I lost about a pound the next morning. I was really looking forward to my first green juice. It struck me how fatigued I was, and I felt pretty winded walking up 4 flight of steps. I didn’t have a headache today, but surprisingly I had a stomachache in the afternoon. I’m not quite sure what caused it, but it didn’t last for long. I was also extremely cold. Each time I had a juice, I had to chase it with hot water so that I didn’t feel so miserable. I have bad circulation to begin with, so that probably didn’t help with the temperature issues. I definitely wasn’t as mentally sharp as I was yesterday, I kept thinking the next day was Thursday when it wasn’t, and I would say something but type something else on the computer. I guess these are the signs of your body detoxing and going into withdrawal from not having all those empty calories and caffeine? I skipped my workout in the evening and just sat in front of the TV and watched The Voice. After the cashew milk, I again went to sleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.

Day 3 – Woke up, lost another pound. This day was a painful one, mostly because I scheduled an Advanced Physique class at 7 am. I was curious to see what my limits were workout wise. I almost didn’t make it through the push-ups, and I just didn’t even bother trying to lift my hips AND legs during the side planks. The 3 pound weights also felt very heavy, very fast, but I managed to work through it. I was also super hungry today. Usually I time my juices about 2 hours apart, but today I drank based on when my stomach grumbled. Which was earlier than the 2 hour window. I was in less of a mental fog than yesterday, which was good, but not anywhere near pre-cleanse levels. I was also really, really cold again. I was so looking forward to the protein goodness of the cashew milk, that I debated whether I should skip Juice #5 and dive immediately into the nut milk. I decided to stick to the schedule and was pretty relieved that this was the last day.

Post Cleanse Day – I lost another pound, bringing the total to 3 pounds. What these tricky juice cleanse programs don’t tell you is that the cleanse is longer than 3 days. Really, you’re supposed to prep 3 days beforehand, and gently break it 3 days afterwards. So really it’s like a 9 day affair, which is way too long for me. I like a quick and fast burn. My workout in the morning was still horrible because I didn’t eat any post-cleanse foods yet. I tried my best to break the fast via BluePrint’s instructions, which entailed eating only fruits and leafy vegetables the first day. I was pretty good up until lunch, but then Ruoxi wanted to eat pork shoulder and sausage and red wine for dinner, so clearly this derailed my plans. There’s a reason why you have to ease into solid foods, because my stomach started hurting when I ate the pork, and I couldn’t eat that much. But I really, really wanted to. This is how much I like food. Even when I’m in pain or have food poisoning, I want to try everything, and I get disappointed when I can’t. Now that I’ve totally broken the cleanse, I’m looking forward to better workouts (my workout on Friday was so much more effective) and mental clarity and real meals in moderation!